Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 7 and Final)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on October 9th, 2005 by bill

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“One owes respect to the living: To the Dead one owes only the truth.”
—Voltaire (via HST)

One last thing.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 6)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on October 8th, 2005 by bill

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Although labeled “Dr. Gonzo,” this Ralph Steadman illustration actually depicts Raoul Duke, a.k.a. Hunter S. Thompson.

When I started this screed almost two months ago, I had no idea that it would absorb all my writing energy, if not my life, for so long…but here we are, it’s a cool day in October, the days are getting noticeably shorter, and in some ways I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. But fuck it, sooner or later this thread is going to have to be terminated to make room for whatever comes next. There are just a few loose ends I feel obligated to tie up first.

* * *

In examining what makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tick, I omitted for simplicity’s sake one factor that I would be remiss in not mentioning: the contribution of Ralph Steadman, the illustrator. It just wouldn’t have been the same book without his depictions of Raoul Duke, Dr. Gonzo, and the various Vegas citizens, cops, and lizards that they enounter in the course of their adventures.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 5)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on October 7th, 2005 by bill

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After a long and perilous journey, we have now arrived where I wanted to get to in the first place, which is Las Vegas.

I was 16 years old when I first read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and it changed my life—not entirely for the better, but that’s water under the bridge now. Like a great early experience with sex, drugs, or rock’n'roll, it was the kind of rush you find yourself chasing after for a long time, and never quite recapturing.

In my relatively sober middle age I find myself asking questions like, why is Fear and Loathing so great—or, to put it another way, what’s so great about it? Why is it so much fun, when its subject matter is not just fear and loathing, but also paranoia and disillusionment? And what is it, exactly, when you get right down to it?

To answer those questions—or at least come up with a reasonable-sounding response—you need to look at how it came to be.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 4)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 17th, 2005 by bill

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“I’d like to do a book on people who play polo and give me a lot of free booze. I got tired of living in that Hell’s Angels world…and fooling around in a lot of crummy bars.”
—HST, 1968

The Gonzo era began in earnest with an article called “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which Dr. Thompson wrote for Scanlan’s Monthly in 1970. If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to do so right now; it’s a funny and quick read, only about 14 pages. Here’s a link if you need one (you’re probably going to want to print it out; or better yet, just get a copy of The Great Shark Hunt).

In the years since his sojourn in the Haight-Ashbury, the Doctor had talked football with Richard Nixon, then almost accidentally blown up Nixon’s plane while lighting a cigarette; been beaten and thrown through a plate glass window by Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic convention; and masterminded the “Freak Power” campaign of Joe Edwards, who came within a few votes of becoming mayor of Aspen, where Thompson had settled after leaving California.
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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 3)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 13th, 2005 by bill

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The success of Hell’s Angels gave Dr. Thompson credibility in the world of mainstream journalism and led to an assignment from The New York Times Magazine to write about the growing hippie scene in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.

The resulting article, called “The ‘Hashbury’ Is the Capital of the Hippies,” begins as a piece of very straight journalism. At times the Doctor sounds like one of the so-called counterculture experts he would later mock:

The word “hip” translates roughly as “wise” or “tuned-in.” A hippy is somebody who “knows” what’s really happening, and who adjusts or grooves with it.

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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 2)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 9th, 2005 by bill

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Reading over Part 1, it occurs to me that what I am attempting is nothing less than a sober reappraisal of Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy. Is such a thing necessary? Is it desirable? Is it even possible? Well, never mind; I’m into it now, so there’s no sense in quitting. As the Doctor liked to say, buy the ticket, take the ride.

* * *

The whole thing hinges, I think, on the concept of Gonzo journalism. Was it a brilliant innovation or a flimsy excuse to ignore the established rules of the trade? Did it have an ethos and an objective, or was it merely a platform for fuzzy, drug-induced “insights”? Do we even know, after all this time, what it really was?
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Breakfast with Hunter

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 5th, 2005 by bill

This Hunter Thompson obsession is almost done with, I swear…just another week, maybe two. I just need to get my momentum back. It’s all a question of the right techniques, the right medicines, the right atmospheric conditions…the time is at hand, but it’s not here quite yet.

In the meantime, I honored the holiday today by having an HST-style breakfast, except without the nudity and the cocaine. In case you’re not familiar with the Doctor’s Philosophy of Breakfast, here it is in a nutshell:


Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner.

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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 1)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 30th, 2005 by bill

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So I took a couple of days off to reread Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and I lost all my momentum. It’s like Dr. Thompson said to Charles Perry:

I just don’t know what happened, I lost the momentum, it was just like a train on greased rails, I’ve been taking speed to get the momentum back, I haven’t slept in three days, I haven’t changed my clothes, I think my feet are rotting.

Well, it’s sort of like that, except without the speed. I never got into that stuff, thank Jeebus. But I did try to emulate Dr. Thompson in other ways, which was a mistake a lot of us made after reading Fear and Loathing. If ever there were a book that should be emblazoned with the words “Don’t try this at home,” this is it. (Or maybe The 120 Days of Sodom; but you take my point.)
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Yesterday’s Weirdness Is Tomorrow’s Reason Why (Part 3)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 22nd, 2005 by bill

I was compelled today by Dr. Thompson’s ghost to type in this entire chapter from The Curse of Lono. The Doctor has more and more taken over this blog in the last week because honestly, whose words would I rather type, his or mine? No contest.

No commentary I could add is going to do justice to this passage, which forms the true conclusion of the book (there’s another chapter after it, which could just as well have been left out). Presented in the form of a letter to Ralph Steadman, it wraps up the threads of the Lono business, the City of Refuge, the war club, and all the rest of it with a savage elegance that only Hunter Thompson was capable of.

July 1, 1981
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(24 hours later)...I must be getting old, Ralph, eight pages is about all I can do in one night; so I took a break and got some sleep. I also felt I should back off and have a long look at this I am Lono business, because I am wary of being fooled by another false dawn.
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Yesterday’s Weirdness Is Tomorrow’s Reason Why (Part 2)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 21st, 2005 by bill

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Dr. Thompson’s image—his well-deserved and long-cultivated image—as the drug-crazed wildman of American letters tended to obscure what a canny writer he was, at least when he was on top of his game.

Case in point: The Curse of Lono at first seems to be very loosely organized, filled with odd tangents and sidebars on Hawaiian history that at best could be called background, and at worst filler.

So we get the following data on the Hawaiian god Lono, for instance:
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